Can Brand and Direct Response Marketers Coexist? – By Michael Sprouse

by FeedFront Staff on May 27, 2009

It is the classic “church and state” argument; brand advertisers in TV, print, and outdoor advertising and direct response marketers in infomercials, catalogs and direct mail. Very seldom have the two worlds collided, traditionally.

Early in online marketing, measurement, tactics and mindsets were simply ported over from the offline world. Branded advertisers would pay high CPM rates for premium inventory on premium sites (akin to a billboard in Times Square). Direct response advertisers would run and evaluate campaigns based on CPA or CPC, with less concern over whether inventory was “premium”, just that it worked (akin to direct mail).

One side was Madison Avenue-sexy; the other was not. It was supposedly “neat and tidy” since this hierarchy was what worked for decades, offline.

Beginning only recently, we have started to see an unprecedented shift. A myopic view would suggest that the impetus behind this shift is tied to the overall economy, with “fluffy” ad dollars simply being pinched more than ever.

A broader viewpoint might indicate that advertisers and agencies of all types are taking proactive steps in educating themselves and spending more effectively.

Why exactly is this shift taking place? It is that both brand-focused advertisers and direct response advertisers are moving ad money online, and that the business models ported from the offline world are changing.

For performance marketers who make their living in front of a machine, this isn’t exactly “news” – you know the power, scale, efficiency and measurability of the medium and how to leverage it.

But traditional offline marketers and brand marketers (who still hold a majority of overall ad dollars) are beginning to take a closer look at performance-based campaigns, or at least “hybrid” campaigns.

We will continue to see branding and customer acquisition lines blurred, compounded every time you read about CPM rates declining. I’ve long held the notion that the best way for brand advertisers to extend their brand was to gain more customers, make them happy, keep them, and communicate with them.

Uniquely in the online world, a consumer’s use of social media, blogs, forums, discussion groups after interacting with a brand can be powerful – and measurable. Some large advertisers finally understand this and are surprised at the increased insight they can have into user’s interactions with their product or service.

Is Online there yet in fully satisfying all types of advertisers in peaceful coexistence? Not yet. There is more education needed across the entire advertising ecosystem, measurement techniques can be improved and the economics of the marketplace have to stabilize further.

But for the first time, I’m seeing advertisers and large brands beginning to address the medium internally, push more advertising dollars online and take steps to become more educated. The next few months will be fascinating to watch as this shift presumably becomes more apparent.

The takeaway is that there could be real opportunity for responsible performance-based marketers and affiliates as more ad dollars are funneled online.

Michael Sprouse is the Chief Marketing Officer for Epic Advertising, and is based at the company’s headquarters in New York, NY.

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